Reserva Conchal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
One of the hippest and most artistic big resorts in the country, the W Costa Rica hotel is more family oriented than the chain's usual offerings but has plenty of adult fun and a great spa complex on site.
Located on one of the most picture-perfect beaches in Costa Rica and near the Reserva Conchal golf course, this 2019 addition offers a nice alternative to the rest of the landscape here. Its location just an hour from the Liberia airport, a bit north of Tamarindo, makes it a welcome option if you've got some Marriott points to cash in or you want a big resort with reliable personal service.
That personal service is codified in the "whatever whenever" concierge service. You can text, call, or send a WhatsApp message to a guest services manager who has the ability to solve your problem or provide that perfect experience. That, combined with a very hands-on top management team, means that guests who come here to be pampered and catered to a lot are going to get what they're looking for.
There's plenty of pampering built into all the aspects here, from the pretty cocktail welcome drink to the spa facilities that anyone can use to the daybeds around the pool that don't have upsell charges attached.
Costa Rica's best-known architect firm did the honors here and the effect is stunning. (They also designed the Andaz and Mangroove resorts in the region). It's obvious that an experienced and confident hand was at the drawing board, with Ronald Zürcher's mix of organic elements, symbolism, and modern design creating a thematic whole that works. All of the public spaces are dramatic and carefully lighted for the right effect at different times of day. Hummingbirds, flowers, and wildlife all have their part to play in the design, but with playful touches to make them unique. The lighted sculptural tree elements in the bar area, for instance, are made from 8,200 Bavaria beer bottles with colored lights inside. (Reserva Conchal was developed by the family that owns Costa Rica's commercial beer monopoly.)
The public buildings have a mix of air-conditioned restaurant spaces and outdoor spaces, with the main Cocina de Mercado restaurant having a mix of both. On the main level as you enter is the reception area, a huge bar space, a boutique, and the restaurant with an open kitchen and pizza oven. That one serves both buffet and a la carte options, with lots of high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. Across from that is the large main pool complex, then downstairs is another bar and the upscale dinner restaurant.
Latitude 10 North downstairs is a combination showpiece bar and Asian restaurant. In the bar part you can sign up for a mixology tasting dinner with four cocktails and four paired courses. You learn about the ingredients and how to make the drinks, picking up some pairing information along the way. You can also join cooking classes or tasting experiences with rum or coffee.
The entrance to restaurant is set up by a hanging lighted koi fish that's at least eight feet long. After struggling with a menu that had too many tempting choices, I let the waiter pick what they do best. I ended up with a wonderful soup with shrimp, mushrooms, and coconut, then moved on to the slow-cooked short ribs, which were excellent.
The other Zona Azul restaurant and bar is down at the beach club, which requires a short golf cart ride, a bike ride, or a long walk to get to. You can eat and drink there or poolside. It is busiest at lunch, when you'll be lounging by the pool, relaxing on the beach with calm waves, or going out in a paddleboard. It is a lovely place to hang out in the evening too though when open for dinner and beyond, with fire pits and the sound of birds in the trees.
Both pools are expansive and attractive, with plenty of lounging space. The one at the beach club is rectangular and best for laps, while the main one further up the hill is a free-form affair with a bar, a whirlpool, and mountain views. The beach club pool also has a kids club with games for children up to age 12.
The rooms here are as colorful as a tropical bird and as fun as a day at the beach. All of the furniture is locally made, a Costa Rica surfboard company made the bar tables, and there are colorful pillows in yellows, purples, and reds. Some of the artwork came from Costa Rican flip-flops company Frick. All rooms have 2 sinks in the bathrooms, which have lots of natural light coming through the shower built for two.
Robes and slippers are standard, as are well-stocked minibars, coffee machines, giant TVs with English channels and Netflix, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth speakers. Baths have a nice array of toiletries, including a razor and toothbrush. Valet parking is free and there's turndown service each evening.
Many rooms have a balcony and some of the suites have a plunge pool on them as well. I regretted that I was alone in my Wow Suite (in the 5000 block) because it had a semi-circle yellow leather couch meant for a big groovy party and...a foosball table! The suites are a real bargain in the summer "green season" when demand drops, going below $500 per night at times.
As is the case with most W Hotels resorts these days, the room categories are not very helpful on their own. Which do you think is best: Fabulous, Wonderful, Wow, or Spectacular? It's not really a cut-and-dry choice anyway. The units starting with 5 and 6 look out at jungle, but have more privacy and are closer to the main buildings. The others often have a view, especially on high floors, but are further up the hill and require curtains to avoid putting on a show in the glass box showers facing the exterior.
There are a few other minor oddities, like light switches that are all-or-nothing for the whole room (except the gooseneck bedside reading lights). All the typical W sexual double-entendres and suggestive language in the minibar and on the signs posted around the rooms seem at odds with the new attempt to appeal to families. Also, the many throwaway plastic bottles in guest rooms are free, while water in a refillable glass bottle has a $5 charge—in a country trying to lead the world in sustainability. Thankfully you can drink the tap water here though.
The spa facilities at W Costa Rica are a real highlight. The building itself is a work of art inspired by nature and the main room with reception and the beauty facilities is one of the prettiest I've come across, like something out of a movie set. Past that are the locker rooms and massage cabins, where I got a great rubdown that removed my kinks from driving around the Nicoya Peninsula's bumpy unpaved roads to the south.
Anyone can use spa facilities here whether they're getting a treatment or not, so you can come here to use the sauna, whirlpool, plunge pools, and lovely little pool with lounge chairs. You also have access to an excellent gym right next to the spa.
The sprawling Reserva Conchal complex this W resort is part of is about as safe as you could ask for. The gated community has high-end residential homes, a Westin hotel that came earlier, and what is considered by many to be the best place to golf in Costa Rica.
While some travelers will prefer the smaller independent luxury hotels dotting this part of Costa Rica, those looking for full facilities and an artsy aesthetic will be right at home at the young W Costa Rica Resort.
Web Address: Marriott.com W Reserva Conchal
Total Number of Rooms: 150
Published rates: $232 - $999 plus taxes
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.